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Over 65,000 US troops passed through Shannon Airport this year

Independent TD Catherine Connolly has said that “it is not possible to promote peace if we are facilitating war”.

Image: Shutterstock/umpo

THE US MILITARY has continued to pass through Shannon Airport throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 65,000 military personnel transiting through Shannon in the first 10 months of this year. 

Over 10,000 passed through in the month of July alone when concerns were raised over US troops stopping here at a time when tens of thousands of new cases of the coronavirus were being confirmed each day in America

Separately, statistics published by the Department of Transport up to August show that 784 applications for the carriage of “munitions of war” on civil aircraft were permitted this year with 292 granted for flights landing or taking off from Shannon Airport.

Prior to this year’s general election, Labour’s Brendan Howlin said his party would push for an end to the use of Shannon Airport for US military planes.

The matter was also flagged during the summer, with a group which regularly protests the use of Shannon Airport by the US military saying it has been raising additional concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“This is something we raised at the start of the pandemic, that it was adding another layer of danger to the whole issue around troops,” Shannonwatch spokesperson John Lannon told TheJournal.ie.

The matter was raised in a recent Dáil debate with Independent TD and Leas-Ceann Comhairle Catherine Connolly pressing Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on the matter.

“My question is a direct one,” Connolly said. “What are the Minister’s plans to engage with the new President of America, Mr Joe Biden, in respect of the continued use of Shannon Airport by American troops, given that this year alone 65,965, or almost 70,000, troops have passed through in ten months which is more than in any year from 2014 to 2017?”

Coveney replied that the use of Shannon Airport by the US military was a “long-standing practice” and was fully consistent with Ireland’s position of neutrality. 

He said: “I have addressed, as have other Ministers, the issue of the facilitation of planes coming through Shannon Airport on many occasions. There are safeguards in place.

I do not propose to make a significant issue of this with the incoming administration in the US unless there is very good reason to do so.

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Connolly replied: “There is actually a very good reason to do so because America has been involved in many wars.

“Almost 3 million soldiers have passed through Shannon Airport since 2002. Some 475 American planes have landed and 734 overflight permissions were granted in 2019 alone. It is not possible to promote peace if we are facilitating war.”

The minister replied that Ireland aims to maximise its influence to promote peace by building relationships with countries all over the world to try to influence the decisions they make.

“That is how the world works when it comes to international politics, as opposed to countries taking stands that may sound good domestically but which get nothing done internationally,” Coveney added.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy

About the author:

Sean Murray

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